It’s a time of the year to guess, predict and hope, and after 15 days of an exclusive negotiating period, free agency has finally begun. The Minnesota Twins may have crossed one position off their list, but in the coming months they’ll be faced with several more decisions.
The infield is partially settled with Justin Morneau and J.J. Hardy, but to their sides holes remain. After watching Joe Crede and a platoon of others play at third last season and after seeing Nick Punto, Matt Tolbert and several others man second, both positions are now empty.
Meanwhile the rotation is unsettled with two spots open for the team to fill with in-house competition, trade or free agency. While Scott Baker, Kevin Slowey and Nick Blackburn will fill three of the five spots, the remaining options outside of Brian Duensing were injured or underperformed in 2009.
Team President Dave St. Peter recently said the team would like to move from being a low-market team funded partially by Major League Baseball to a mid-market team receiving no additional funds. Such a change would push their payroll up, and estimates seem to place it around $90 million.
With the current roster, and arbitration and other raises included, the Twins will have an estimated $80-$83 million invested before making another move. Putting everything together, the Twins have about three holes and $7-$10 million to fill them.
So, what should they do?
Fans and others will guess, but ultimately what the front office does is unpredictable. With options available within the organization at each open position, the Twins have several ways to go about spending their funds and putting together a roster for the inaugural season at Target Field.
In the rotation the Twins could settle with Francisco Liriano, Glen Perkins and Brian Duensing as options outside of their three current locks. Their other option is to pursue three free agents they reportedly like: Jarrod Washburn, Carl Pavano and Rich Harden.
In the infield the Twins could go with their rising third base prospect Danny Valencia to fill the left side and Nick Punto, Matt Tolbert or Alexi Casilla at second. Another option is to sign a player like Felipe Lopez to play second or Adrian Beltre, Mark DeRosa, Joe Crede or Pedro Feliz to play third.
The off-season is a time to dream of the big moves, but it too is very unpredictable. What the Twins will do remains uncertain, but the best bet is a combination of mid-level free agent signings and in-house alternatives.